Vets Care

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(HOST) Six months ago the Walter Reed scandal first made headlines, and commentator Bill Seamans is wondering if there’s been any improvement in the care of wounded veterans since then.

(SEAMANS) Last March, as the uproar echoed across the nation, we asked: will the Walter Reed veterans’ care scandal be drowned out by political babble? It was not a probability difficult to anticipate. After the Generals responsible were fired and quickly summoned workers started repainting the vermin infested outpatient rooms, Commander in Chief George Bush took the familiar political damage control action – he appointed a committee. You may remember that it was to be a bipartisan investigation chaired by Bob Dole and Donna Shalala. They surveyed the nationwide Veterans’ Administration hospital and aftercare system and came up with the opinion that, guess what? – it needed fixing.

Since then, the veterans’ care scandal has, indeed, been drowned out by the primaries’ political babble. But the Washington Post, which broke the Walter Reed story, is still on the ball – reporting the other day that the promised efforts to improve care for our wounded soldiers are behind schedule – a story, it seems, that hardly anybody noticed. A congressional oversight committee discussing the delay said that the effort to reform the VA’s medical bureaucracy has itself become mired in bureaucracy.

They say their staffs are still hearing "appalling stories" from soldiers overwhelmed by the disability rating process. Committee members blamed the Pentagon and the VA, itself, for what Representative John Tierney of Massachusetts called an "utter lack of

At the heart of the critical questions that remain unanswered is the bureaucratic maze in which recovering vets are trapped waiting for an assessment of their injuries as a guideline for further treatment. The army and the VA have separate ways of estimating how much future care each wounded individual will need. The often conflicting evaluations leave many recovering service persons in limbo for months or even years. The delay in agreeing to a single combined evaluation suggests a shameful and inexcusable turf battle.

Perhaps not surprisingly, we have not heard a new uproar of rage from the politicians who made sure they got their angry face time on TV when the news cameras were at Walter Reed. Also, I have not heard any clamor about this delay by the hardline radio talk show hosts who represent themselves as the ultrapatriotic supporters of our troops.

The moral of this story is, unfortunately, immoral. Those who have sacrificed the most in a war that should not have happened are now victims of the diverted attention of campaigning politicians who had promised their all-out support – it would seem that now it’s time for we the people to again express our own outrage and remind our Congress persons of their moral obligation to care for those they voted to put in harm’s way.

Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for A-B-C News in the Middle East.

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